Switzerland’s federal council has announced all events in the country involving more than 1 000 people will be banned thanks to fears around the coronavirus (COVID-19), leading to the scrapping of the 2020 Geneva International Motor Show.

“In view of the current situation and the spread of the coronavirus, the federal council has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special’ in terms of the Epidemics Act,” the council said in a press statement.

“Large-scale events involving more than 1 000 people are to be banned. The ban comes into immediate effect and will apply at least until 15 March,” the statement added.

The 90th edition of the show was due to open its door to the press on 4 March, before running through to 15 March.

“The federal council's top priority is to protect the population. It is responding to the latest developments in the coronavirus epidemic and has categorised the situation in Switzerland as ‘special' in terms of the Epidemics Act. This enables the federal council, in consultation with the cantons, to order measures that are normally the responsibility of the cantons.

The federal council added it was aware this measure would have a “significant impact on public life” in Switzerland but added it was expected to provide “effective protection to people in Switzerland and to public health”.

The organisers of the show said they accepted the federal council's decision.

"We regret this situation, but the health of all participants is our and our exhibitors' top priority. This is a case of force majeure and a tremendous loss for the manufacturers who have invested massively in their presence in Geneva. However, we are convinced that they will understand this decision," said Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the Geneva International Motor Show board.

According to the organisers, the construction of the stands was “very nearly complete”. They added ticket buyers would be refunded.

“The financial consequences for all those involved in the event are significant and will need to be assessed over the coming weeks. One thing is certain: tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded. The organisers will communicate about this as soon as possible, via their website,” the organisers said in a statement.